Green groups sue EPA for records of Wheeler meetings

Two environmental groups are suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for records of any meetings that new Administrator Andrew Wheeler may have held with his former employer and several other energy groups. 

The Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth (FOE) brought the lawsuit on Tuesday, arguing the EPA should release records of any meetings that Wheeler may have had with the communications and lobbying firm Faegre Baker Daniels.

Wheeler worked for nearly a decade at Faegre Baker Daniels, where he lobbied for fossil fuel groups, before joining the EPA.

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“Wheeler is crippling environmental protections that inconvenience his old clients,” said Bill Snape, the Center for Biological Diversity's senior counsel. “The public needs to know what happened between Wheeler’s former employer and the environmental agency he’s now running into the ground.”

Wheeler's history advocating for energy companies was highlighted in his Senate confirmation hearing for deputy administrator last April. He promised senators at the time that he would avoid conflicts of interests with his former clients.

In the lawsuit, the environmental groups challenged that EPA was in violation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for failing to release the sought-after documents in an appropriate period of time. 

"EPA is unlawfully withholding public records, which FOE and the Center requested pursuant to FOIA, by failing to conduct an adequate search for responsive records and by failing to provide FOE and the Center with responsive records, for which there are no applicable FOIA exemptions," the groups wrote in the lawsuit.

The groups first filed the FOIA request seven months ago in the spring.

The EPA said it would not comment on pending litigation